How’s your digestion?

Article by Bec’s Lowe Nutrtionist

Digestion, that incredible process that takes place in-between your mouth and well, you know where. It’s how we turn food into energy to fuel all of our bodily processes.
When functioning correctly, you probably don’t even notice your digestive process taking place. Food enters your mouth and travels through your digestive tract with no noticeable symptoms, then simply and easily exits your body at the other end. End of story.

If however, your digestion is not functioning optimally you may experience a number of unpleasant symptoms. Heartburn, reflux, burping, bloating, excessive gas, cramps, loose stools or constipation are clear signs from your body that something isn’t quite right with your digestive process. When these issues are ongoing they can lead to intestinal permeability (leaky gut), food intolerances and nutrient deficiencies, which can have serious consequences to your overall health and wellbeing.

Here are 8 simple tips to keep your digestion in tip top shape:

1. Eat in a relaxed and calm state – What’s going on around you and in your mind can have a big impact on how well you digest your food. There is a clear link between our mind and our gut and stress is known to negatively affect the digestive process. Never eat when you are upset, take a few deep breaths to calm down, remove distractions (such as the TV or computer screen) and focus on the meal in front of you.

2. Avoid drinking around mealtimes – The stomach needs to be acidic to break down food when it arrives. Drinking at the same time as eating dilutes stomach acid meaning food isn’t broken down sufficiently and can cause that food to stay in the stomach longer, leading to bloating and reflux. Try not to drink half an hour before and an hour after meals, except for a few small sips if needed.

3. Eat bitter foods at the start of your meals – Bitter foods such as rocket, dandelion greens, kale, radicchio, radishes and citrus peel stimulate the release of digestive acid, enzymes and bile, all important for optimal digestion. Start your meals with a salad and dressing of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar.

4. Chew your food thoroughly – The first part of digestion begins in the mouth where saliva and chewing begin to break down the food. Once the food leaves your mouth there are no teeth in your stomach to do this job! Slow down and chew each mouthful until the food is becomes a paste, putting your knife and fork down between bites.

5. Avoid too many of the foods known to upset the gut lining and microbiome – This includes processed foods, additives, artificial sweeteners, preservatives, sugar, alcohol and gluten.

6. Include some fermented foods every day – kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, kombucha, kefir or probiotic yoghurt. These foods contain probiotics (live beneficial bacteria) which have been associated with improved digestion, immunity and many other health benefits. Start by slowly introducing these foods, one or two serves a day to avoid digestive upset. If you find after a while these foods still cause digestive upset for you, this may indicate an imbalance of gut bacteria or SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) which may require testing and treatment by a naturopath or other health professional.

7. Stay well hydrated – not drinking enough water or fluids throughout the day is often a cause of constipation. Ideally you want to be drinking 30mls of fluid per kilogram of body weight. So, if you weigh 70kg you need to drink around 2.1L of water per day. Water or herbal teas are the best choice whereas caffeinated drinks can have a diuretic effect.

8. See a naturopath or nutritionist if your gut issues are ongoing – Identifying the root cause of your symptoms such as food sensitivities, compromised gut lining or a dysbiosis in the gut microbiome means that appropriate and effective treatments can be targeted to treat the digestive dysfunction. Naturopaths and nutritionists use thorough health history questioning and testing to identify the root cause, then offer effective nutrition and lifestyle advice, as well as herbs and supplements tailored to the individual to help support your body to heal.

I hope these tips are useful to you and you can implement a number of them into your life. Good digestion has a massive flow on effect to your energy, health and vitality, and when that is good, life is great!

To your great health!